a calorie is a calorie, part 2

a calorie is a calorie, part 2

Yesterday I wrote a post titled "a calorie is a calorie, mostly", in which I cited, quoted, and commented on an article written by David Katz about the concept that the calorie is a scientific unit of measurement - no different than a fathom or league (or mile, or pound.)

After I wrote my article, I read a piece by Brad Pilon called Confront your Assumptions. Brad's article introduces some additional information and ideas which make the entire topic worth investigating further..

Brad agrees that a calorie is a calorie, regardless of where it comes from, since a calorie is a specific unit of measurement. This is akin to saying a mile is a mile, regardless of where you are in the world.

However, he (correctly) points out that not all calories are made up of the same macro-nutrients. (ie: proteins vs fats vs carbs, and all their various forms).

This is like saying the makeup of every mile is not the same. For example, if it's an uphill walk from Point A to Point B, then it's a downhill walk from Point B to Point A. Travelling from Point A to Point B will be more difficult, slower, and require more energy than travelling from Point B to Point A - even though they are both exactly one mile.

Going back to the macro-nutrients, your body will operate most efficiently if you give it the calories it needs, when it needs them, made of the right combination of macro-nutrients. This is important, no - critical, for the 1% of our population whose livelihood depends on their body working at maximum efficiency (top level athletes, mostly).

For the rest of us 99% ers, it's more important to get the right balance of calories in vs calories out, and let our bodies do what they were designed to do - consume, process, store, and burn calories for energy. Burning more than you consume will cause weight loss; consuming more than your burn will cause weight gain.

The rest of Brad's article discusses the sometimes faulty assumptions we make when analyzing a diet or exercise program, especially when marketers help paint our assumptions. And he makes some good points, especially with the photos he included.

Critical thinking
  • Does a calorie really equal a calorie?
  • Does the person in the advertisement really use the program being advertised?
  • Did the person in the advertisement really get to look that way because of the program being advertised?
  • Are the Before and After pictures completely untouched?
  • Could the person in the Before and After pictures have achieved these results using any other method? (was it the method used, or the person's dedication, which caused the changes?)

Bottom Line

It seems to me that we (the internet community) get really worked up about the things which have a true impact on a very small percentage of the population. Our ancestors - from our grandparents all the way back to our prehistoric relatives - never cared about carbs vs protein. They just ate - enough to fuel up for tomorrow's work, but not in excess.

For the vast majority of us, a calorie is a calorie.

-Chris Butterworth